Artifact Spotlight: Supreme Court Justice

Congress still hasn’t confirmed a new Supreme Court justice to fill Antonin Scalia’s vacancy. It’s a shame Charles Evans Hughes isn’t still around to help sort this mess out.

2010.67.030

AP photo from the museum’s collection. Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, 1934.

When Charles Evans Hughes joined the Supreme Court in 1910, he had already been a successful lawyer and New York governor. He resigned from the bench to run for president on the Republican ticket in 1916 against Woodrow Wilson. Hughes nearly won, too. A narrow margin of just 4000 votes would have given him California’s electoral votes and the presidency. It was his reputation as a no nonsense, incorruptible man that perhaps gave him an incorrect public image of austerity and aloofness.

Undeterred, he went on to be the secretary of state for Presidents Harding and Coolidge, and a World Court judge. He was confirmed as the Supreme Court Chief Justice by the United States Senate on February 13, 1930. He replaced former President William Howard Taft who oddly appointed Hughes to his first tenure on the Supreme Court (side note: Taft remains the only person to have held both offices of President and Chief Justice).

In his tenure as Chief Justice, Hughes had the distinction of swearing in President Franklin D Roosevelt for all three of his terms in 1933, 1937 and 1941. Other career highlights included assisting the court’s transition from property rights to individual rights and for striking down Roosevelt’s attempt to “pack the court” in 1937. He is remembered as one of the finest justices to sit on the bench.

This image is part of the museum’s permanent collection. Come see this photo and many others in the Archives.

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